Wal-Mart ruling may have helped class-action cases involving wage and hour issues

The class-action discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart that was ruled in the company’s favor may prove beneficial to class-action lawsuits involving wage and hour and overtime disputes. Judges ruling on overtime and other wage and hour cases have issued opinions explaining how the Wal-Mart decision does not apply to their particular case.

Last month, the United States Supreme Court heard a class-action discrimination suit involving Wal-Mart. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the global retail giant and many believed the decision was a setback for future class-action plaintiffs.

The case against Wal-Mart was based upon a group of 1.5 million current and former female employees who argued they were paid less than their male counterparts and were denied promotions. The issue of the case was whether the historically large class of plaintiffs could be certified. The Supreme Court decided against the female workers and ruled that they did not have enough in common to sue together.

The Wal-Mart case was a discrimination case and discrimination cases generally have stricter class certification requirements than cases involving wage and hour issues or cases under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Two federal judges have upheld the certification of classes in two wage and hour class action suits. A federal judge in California denied a trucking company’s attempt to decertify a class of up to 1,000 drivers. Another federal judge in Ohio upheld a class of workers involved in a suit against a nursing home company. Alleviating the concerns of the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the federal judge in Ohio specifically said the Wal-Mart case did not apply to the case before him.

Source: Reuters, “Analysis: Wal-Mart ruling no knock-out blow for class actions,” Moira Herbst, 7/12/11

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